Who's Who in Musicals: Hart-Hutton
Hart, Lorenz "Larry"
Rodgers & Hart contributed songs to a dozen films, including the innovative commercial failures Love Me Tonight (1932) and Hallelujah I'm a Bum (1933). Despite Hart's many personal demons, his lyrical legacy confirms his status as one of the brightest lights of Broadway's golden age. "My Funny Valentine," "Blue Moon," "Where or When" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" show Hart at his bittersweet best. Although abetted by his nefarious confidant "Doc" Bender, Hart pursued his own self-destruction with extraordinary dedication. Tormented by his almost gnomish appearance and unable to accept his own homosexuality, Hart drank himself to death at age 48. You can learn more about Larry Hart in our special section on Gays and Musicals, or read Frederick Nolan's Lorenz Hart: A Poet On Broadway (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1996).
Hart contributed librettos to several important Broadway musicals, including Irving Berlin's revues Face the Music (1932) and As Thousands Cheer (1933), and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart's I'd Rather Be Right (1937). Hart eventually showcased his interest in psychiatric counseling in the libretto for Kurt Weill & Ira Gershwin's landmark musical drama Lady in the Dark (1941). In his later years, Hart proved to be a distinguished director, helming numerous non-musical plays, as well as Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady (1957). Felled by a heart attack while helming the tumultuous pre-Broadway tryout of Camelot (1960), Hart successfully revised the show after its New York opening, then suffered a terminal coronary several months later while standing outside his home in Palm Springs.
Hart's memoir Act One is one of the most delightful books ever written about life in the theatre, but later research has proven much of his content to be creative fiction. His widow, actress and opera singer Kitty Carlisle Hart, had a distinguished show business career, and headed the New York State Council on The Arts for many years. For more on Hart, see Steven Bach's insightful biography Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart (New York: Knopf, 2001).
Hart's drag performances were so uncanny that some eventually questioned his sexual orientation, and his marriage to the strong-willed Gerta Granville did little to quell any rumors. When Gerta encouraged him to feel professionally and personally slighted by Harrigan's nepotistic hiring practices in their theatre company, Hart ended the partnership and tried starring in his own productions. Advanced syphilis (Victorians called this then-incurable condition "paresis") soon forced him off the stage, leading to his madness and death at age 36.
In 1980, he took over the title role in Broadway's Sweeney Todd, co-starring with Dorothy Loudon. Hearn repeated his magnificent performance on tour with Angela Lansbury. Their TV version brought Hearn an Emmy. He was "Tovald" in the disastrous A Doll's House (1983), and soon afterward played the drag queen "Albin" in Jerry Herman's La Cage Aux Folles (1983). His endearing performance and soaring rendition of "I Am What I Am," brought him a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. In his acceptance speech, this confirmed heterosexual coyly quipped, "You call her Tony, but her real name is Antoinette!"
Hearn was "Ben" in the stellar 1985 concert version of Sondheim's Follies, and played "Long John Silver" in an unsuccessful regional tryout of Jule Styne's Pieces of Eight. He spent several months playing paternal attorney "Alonzo Smith" in the lavish Broadway adaptation of Meet Me In St. Louis (1989). He won a Best Featured Actor Tony as the mysterious butler "Max" in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard (1995), and triumphantly repeated his Sweeney Todd in two 2001 concert versions co-starring Patti Lupone one of which was televised on PBS. In 2004, he took over the role of "The Wizard" in the hit musical Wicked, and later played "Van Helsing" in an Off-Broadway revival of Dracula (2010).
Altogether, Herbert composed 43 complete Broadway scores, creating all his own orchestrations. His most lasting success was the operetta Naughty Marietta (1910), the story of an Italian noblewoman who escapes an arranged European marriage to find true love with soldier Jim Warrington in colonial New Orleans. The hit score included "The Neapolitan Street Song," "I'm Falling in Love With Someone," "Neath the Southern Moon" and "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life."
Herbert's music was featured in several editions of The Ziegfeld Follies, and he provided ballet music for the long-running Marilyn Miller hit Sally (1920). Herbert's grand opera Natoma premiered successfully at the Metropolitan Opera in 1911. An American citizen as of 1902, this gifted Irish native was a driving force behind the creation of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which he co-founded with Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan and others. Legend holds that the aggravation of working with volatile producer Florenz Ziegfeld brought on Herbert's fatal stroke at age 65. His best songs remained popular through the 20th century, including "Every Day is Ladies Day," "Kiss Me Again" and "The Streets of New York (In Old New York)." Herbert's "I'm Falling in Love With Someone" was rediscovered in the Tony-winning stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002).
Herman's next three shows had brief runs, but Dear World (1969) with Lansbury, Mack and Mabel (1974) with Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters and The Grand Tour (1979) with Joel Grey are justifiably admired for their fine scores. Herman contributed songs to the popular Broadway revue A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine (1980). The internationally acclaimed hit La Cage Aux Folles (1983) starring George Hearn brought Herman every major award, including a second set of Tonys for Best Score and Best Musical -- and yet another show that would be produced worldwide. Herman wrote the songs for (and made a cameo appearance in) the CBS television musical Mrs. Santa Claus (1996) starring Lansbury, and created a delightful score for the unproduced Las Vegas musical Miss Spectacular. After receiving a special Tony in 2009 for lifetime achievement, Herman announced his retirement from songwriting.
Holm became a major dramatic star in Hollywood, winning an Oscar for her performance in Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and played "Karen Richards" in the classic All About Eve (1950). Her best big screen musical role was as press photographer "Liz" in High Society (1956), where she introduced Cole Porter's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" with Frank Sinatra. She played the Fairy Godmother in the first color remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1965). Holm frequently returned to Broadway, taking over the title role in Mame in 1967. She later starred as headmistress "Julia Faysle" in the witty but short-lived Utter Glory of Morrisey Hall (1979). She starred in daytime soap opera for several years, and but cut back on appearances after a stoke in 2002. In 2004, she celebrated her 87th birthday by marrying opera singer Frank Basile.
Hopper, De Wolf William
An acclaimed comedian, Hopper appeared in a number of Gilbert and Sullivan patter roles. As a lifelong baseball fan, he was often called upon to give his colorful recitation of Ernest L. Thayer's poem "Casey at the Bat." Bald from childhood, he wore wigs both on and offstage quite unusual for men of his era. Adding to his various eccentricities, the harsh medications he took to alleviate throat problems gave Hopper's skin a bluish tint in his later years. With an insatiable appetite for young actresses, he left a trail of six wives and countless mistresses in his wake -- winning the nickname "the husband of his country." (Fifth wife Hedda Hopper failed as an actress but went on to become one of Hollywood's most feared gossip columnists.) After taking over the role of Lutz in Broadway's The Student Prince (1927), Hopper made his last Broadway appearance in the operetta White Lilacs (1928). He died of a heart attack at age 77, and his ashes are buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn.
When Judy Garland was unable to complete MGM's screen version of Annie Get Your Gun (1950), Hutton landed the most memorable role of her career. Her relentlessly aggressive performance style proved less effective when she co-starred with Fred Astaire in Let's Dance (1950). She appeared in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Somebody Loves Me (1952), as well as the TV musical Satin and Spurs (1954), but Hutton's temperamental off-screen behavior brought her film career to a swift end. A series of professional, financial and emotional hardships took their toll, and by the 1970s she was working as a housekeeper in a Rhode Island church rectory. After making a brief Broadway comeback taking over the role of Miss Hannigan in the long-running Annie (1980), Hutton returned to private life. Long estranged from her children, she died at age 86 of colon cancer.
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